Tuesday, April 21, 2015

LinkedOut

Last week, a recent classmate suggested I try LinkedIn. I've never tried it before; I never considered it and rather thought of it as a very professional, serious thing that I wasn't ready to join yet. I thought of it as a network for the serious business professionals.

By this point, considering I've finished my education for good and am now in the job market for something in my field, I'll do anything if it'll help, and it's probably not as "high-end professional" sounding as I first thought of it as. So after asking around about it a little, I signed up.

I did everything it asked me to do. I added as much as I could on my new profile. All my education, work/volunteer experience, certificates, whatever. The bubble at the side jumped from "new" to "expert" very quickly. It asked if I wanted to add a certificate in English, and I agreed to take a test to add it. After that test, I realized it was actually an English-as-a-second-language test, but what the hell.

I added a few people close to me who were, to my surprise, already on there, including my "uncle" living on Calgary (not on Facebook - but on LinkedIn!). I found a lot more individuals I'd known on there than I ever expected.

Because I hate being the perpetrator behind those silly, stupid, bubbly chain notification e-mails ("I want to add you to my network!") I avoided letting the website send invitations to connect to my contacts. Instead, the website ushered all of them into a page for me to look at if I wanted to connect with "people I may know" if any of them were already on LinkedIn. And a lot of them were. Gee.

From there, I wrongly treated the website like Facebook - I left it on, in case anything happened, such as a new connection, or an update of sorts. Most of my new contacts accepted or added me whenever I happened to not be on there anyway, so instead I got a variety of what I did not want to see in the least.

This is why, from now on, I will never go on to LinkedIn for no reason other than to address any notification that comes to me via e-mail. It's otherwise a bulletin board of every single person I've known in the past, and parted acrimoniously with.

It's kind of pathetic, because all of these people are actually girls. Every time I go to the main page, 3 out of 4 times it will advertise a redhead I once knew at McDonalds in the "people you may know" gadget. If I click on my own connections, I end up on that same page, with that same icon and name and current "headline" (job). Even when someone connects with me, the notification e-mail has - hey, look at that - "people I may know" underneath, with guess who!

Yesterday, I decided to look at some former classmates from the first year I returned to Prof. Writing. I saw that girl I was friends with in one list. That put me down. Today, my recent classmate, the guy who suggested I go on LinkedIn, my first connection, added her. Out of all the other people graduating last year. Just her. No personal connection between them, nothing. Just connected. It shows up in the main page every time. "New connections!" Come on!

I have never felt so negative after joining a network. For me it's like joining a club which everyone has already been apart of for awhile, and a quarter of them are girls you used to know that had an issue with you in the end, and they won't stop staring bluntly. At the same time you know you can't go near them, while they mingle with your own connections. On one page I'm confronted with a redhead, on another with a very attractive image of someone I had amazing memories with. There's a third name on there that means something to me, but thank god she never uploaded a profile photo.

It's a pathetic trait of mine, I realize that - I can't know or see or be aware of anything related to someone I used to know in order to move on. I went on a site and ended up with photos and knowledge and even inclusions of people I know with people I used to know who would not approach me with a ten-foot pole, let alone connect with me online. That is an exaggeration, but when I become unwittingly aware of something in that nature I automatically antagonize myself. Something I have to work on.

I'm staying away from that site. I don't need to know anything about anyone. If someone approaches me and wants me as a connection, great, I'll reciprocate. I don't need the page running. All it gives me is Wal-Mart news anyway (I automatically "follow" Wal-Mart thanks to my adding it as a current job). If an old female friend whom I train-wrecked with wants to add all my personal connections (ignoring me of course), let them. I won't see it. What an emotionally draining site. I know. It's my own pathetic, needless issue.

Red Cloud
"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Driven Away

As I mentioned in detail in my post referring to the song 'I Cry' by Bass is Bass, I perceive the 90s in a blue-white colour. Print media from the decade that I was exposed to probably had a big influence on that.

There was that song, and then this one by Amanda Marshall, that gives me this blue-white 90s imagery at full-blast:


I was exposed to her via my mother. Somewhere in my house is a cassette tape of that exact album of hers shown in the video above. As soon as I heard the opening piano in the car on Boom FM a few months ago, I recognized it immediately, but couldn't place it until I heard Marshall's voice.

The lyrics narrate a story of a woman defiantly leaving her abusive husband and fleeing the city in which they live (Birmingham). Marshall gives quite a valid reasoning for the woman's walking away - apparently the guy uses a gun to change channels on TV. I wonder why Marshall's writers behind the song chose to set the song in Alabama's largest city. Is/was it a likelihood domestic relationships such as this one could be more rampant there than elsewhere?

Asking that question, I wonder what a writer would write behind a song called "Ottawa." Birmingham would be the setting/title of a song about domestic abuse. What would Ottawa be about? Or Toronto? Or Calgary?

Losing faith in the Sens, stumbling upon an opportunity, and getting to the "promise land" would be my guesses. "Interstate" would be changed to "Trans Canada Highway" though.

But about the music. There are a few elements of the song that are present in other adult-contemporary 90s songs - such as the hi-hat rhythm (offbeat) for example. Or the really low bass lines, or the jazzy guitar near the end. The Soprano sax in the middle.

As for the imagery it gives me, it translates into many visuals in that colour pallet. One notable scene I get is of high-rise buildings off Fisher Ave, bordering the Experimental Farm, on a cold, late afternoon. My mother lived there before I was born, and I can picture her coming and going from there. This is during the music of the chorus. The sax during the bridge is really pleasing. It gives me nighttime Manhattan images (you get exactly that in the music video for 'Near Wild Heaven' by R.E.M., from 1991, and hey, even in blue). That, combined with the jazz guitar at the end, give me the general look of sitcoms from that time, most of which took place in grey or cream-coloured Manhattan apartments. Like Seinfeld or Friends or, well, not NewsRadio. That was a radio station.

I see settings or ideas based on my awareness of memories I have from that time. Like seeing my father downtown, seeing downtown from his truck, etc. Cloudy days with a blue hue to them. The piano consists of white shapes not too different from several musical notes on a staff glued together as a chord, but with the stems pointing downward.

It's a very good song that gives me a partly nostalgic view of my childhood in the form of seeing places I've only seen in media from that time, as well as what I see as general attitudes from that time. It sounds quite likable to me. The lyrics tell a nice story.

For a grade, I'll give it:
A - Music
A- - Lyrics.

I like the acoustic that comes in now and then as well - it also seems like something used in more than one contemporary 90s song. And Marshall is yet another Canadian (although her mother's from Trinidad & Tobago). We produced some pretty good things at the time - songs that for me, overly visualize it for me. Which makes me like it quite a bit.

Red Cloud
"

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

___________.Pn

http://justpanoramasottawa.tumblr.com/

In the past I've tried starting a couple of 'specialty' blogs, like the art-focused one I have on this domain that was supposed to be handled by both me and my father, as well as a photography-focused one on here as well (created for my Photography program).

On Tumblr, I tried a similar thing based on the original photoblog that got me interested in photography in general, [daily dose of imagery], where I would post one image per day. That worked out amazingly; I posted several images on one day, then one ten days later, then another a month later, and another two months later.

I blame my laziness at image production - the idea was I used Lightroom to import the image into a special catalogue, edit it a little, use Photoshop to edit it more, and then upload a web-size version to the Tumblr blog. That whole process - including double-checking the image metadata such as exposure, etc. in writing my descriptions and adding all the darn tags and italics and whatnot wasn't conducive to my self-discipline. As far as I'm concerned that blog is virtually defunct, although there are some pretty good images on there I think.

This time it's different. This time there's no nonsense with Lightroom and 1-per-day rules and extra editing and technical descriptions, fancy italicized titles. On Facebook, my panoramas - specifically my equirectangular panoramas, and the stereographics that go with them - are enjoying a constant audience of people that really like them. It's gone as far as some old high school classmate's girlfriend adding me because he showed them to her (to be fair both are students in the same photography program I graduated from). I like to think I've mastered what I've been learning and practicing for the last five years, from the equipment to digital masking and stitching.

So alright then. I've created a Tumblr-based photoblog that is nothing but these equirectangulars I've produced over the years. People seem to like them - as well as the stereographics - so why not create a place to put them, and without the uptight process of cataloguing them, 'processing' them, figuring out exposure times and f-stops that were used, image numbers, and fancy bolded/italicized formats of descriptions. I put whatever I want on there as long as it's an equirectangular panorama that I created, past or present, stitched perfectly or erroneously.

All I do beforehand is make it web-sized (otherwise the 33mb images would never upload) and add my name at the bottom to ensure credit is obvious.

It doesn't matter how old or new it is, and the description I write is minimalistic and individualistic. Instead of describing the image, I just point out when the main subject was built. That screenshot above is of a panorama taken in May 2011. I could tell you it was taken on Prince of Whales Drive, south of Hog's Back, with residential housing across the street and a co-op housing development at the left called Carillon. Nah. But hey, it was built in 1978. In my pano of the parking lot at Merivale Mall, all I say is that it was surfaced in 1977. I use my own aerial photos for accuracy.

This is much more easy-going than cataloguing and editing images every single day. I can continue to add more as I create them. Who cares if some are old and stitched badly?

This new site is a photoblog for images of a specific type, which are posted when I want. Should be no problem to keep up with something like that. I'm happy people seem to like them.

Almost forgot: The ___________.Pn refers to how I label my panoramas on the computer. The one above would be something like "PrinceofWhalesPn." Pn obviously standing for 'Panorama.'

Red Cloud
"

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One Singularity

There are all sorts of novelty-type songs out there, from 'She Blinded Me With Science' to 'I Ran (So Far Away).'

Then there's "Bang the Drum All Day" by Todd Rundgren. That upbeat organ-driven tune with all the voices almost monotonously singing 'I don't wanna work/I wanna bang on the drum all day.'

I wouldn't listen to it normally if it were suggested to me, but it happened to unusually play on the radio recently, and I was surprised at the actual full song; I'd only ever heard the chorus, considering I'd only ever heard the song in commercials, movie trailers and other media and the chorus would be the only part featured. It's not an over-used, boring progression when you count the verses. It's not something I've heard a million times, and it's also not complicated.

Upon first hearing the organ of the chorus, I'd assume it to be a 1-5 progression like every other song, except it isn't. It's a 1-4. And it appears to be in D major, not a commonly-used minor. D to G major. On the organ, those chords with a C added in the middle.


But what really interests me is the man behind the song. I read up on Todd Rundgren and learned some impressive stuff. Obviously this isn't his only song, and he's still active. This song was produced in the middle of his career, in 1983. What's most interesting? He did everything himself.

The album this song is from is called The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, and it was one of his last albums produced for a major record label. Apparently he produced it out of contractual obligation rather than out of personal interest, hence the title, but the point is, he did everything. He played every instrument and recorded every instrument. He engineered and produced the album, and directed the picture on the album's cover too.

Rundgren is one of those people I could consider a role model with something like that. He decided he'd rather be in control of how his songs, voice and style went, so he learned how to produce and engineer songs in the recording studio, and did it all himself. Just about any usual band at that time would hire a producer, or their label would hire a producer for them plus advance money for a studio, and then the creative team would be established and either work or not. Rundgren was his own team.

To be able to do that is one of my own goals. The only thing I wouldn't really try is sing, and even that isn't something that would be entirely off the table for me. It would just be my learning to deal with hearing my own voice, as well as acknowledging whether or not it would be nice to hear for others. But I see myself playing every instrument and recording them. I would engineer and mix my own tracks, build my own studio, create my own melodies and write my own lyrics. I'd do the art direction on the cover of the album. If a music video was warranted, I would direct it.

There's definitely people like that out there, people who want to control everything. It's good in moderation. And I wouldn't bar anyone else from contributing, nor would I micro-manage every single aspect of their contribution unless it completely had nothing to do with the direction I'd be going in. But if I meet my goal and produce a few albums, it would be all my creation with help from a few others. I have no interest in following others or working for others. No label would get my signature, if any were ever interested, unless they gave me 100% creative control over everything - and no obligations, no "five albums in ten years" type of thing.

Many artists do their work on their own, by themselves, independently. And yes, most people have no idea they exist, because they aren't mainstream, they aren't shepherded around every radio station/music video channel by a major record label. They don't have the connections to have a huge exposure. If I went the way I want to go in, hardly anyone would ever hear me.

That's perfectly fine.

If I met my goal, if I got to a point where I was producing my own albums in every aspect, I wouldn't care whether or not I had huge exposure and a website to handle my fans. Too many people are in it for the fame and money and exposure rather than the passion and the creativity. This is a side hobby for me. I create what I want so I can listen to it as well as anyone who's interested. However, I think that people like Todd Rundgren are pretty rare when they can produce a few songs by themselves and have them end up as something everyone's heard somewhere or another, the kind of thing where you recognize the tune but can't necessarily recall the name or the artists' name. My goal may not be to be famous or huge through my musical creativity and production, but if one song of mine finds its way into everyone's subconscious, if one song ends up as the kind of thing where it's almost a novelty or a recognizable-yet-forgotten tune, I'll be pretty happy. Because when someone strives to do something on his/her own through a powerful, ongoing passion that won't go away and gets recognized for it, however little or much, that's when people like that finally win. It's the underdog aspect.

If I can do something without really looking for fame, just out of passion and creativity and happiness, and get some minor exposure and acknowledgment for it that's positive, I'll be happy; I want to be someone remembered for proving and emphasizing that you can do it yourself, especially if you believe in yourself. Todd Rundgren proved that, and in a smaller way, so did Karl Wallinger (World Party). One-man team - the strength of your own efforts at work. My goal isn't to have a major hit. But if I had something minor after some real hard work, I'll be satisfied. Because I did everything myself. I didn't even have to feature a rapper.

Red Cloud
"

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Single Multitracks



I'm starting right to the point with this song, which I've reviewed on here before. I also referenced it as a song in A major. Back when I first found it and listened to it, I had some misconceptions about the song that I wrote down - for example, the descending guitar riff and the 'quiet' guitar is the same guitar. I also pointed out that it sounded nostalgic and that the drums had this neat 'reverb' sound to them. That isn't a product of the recording. It's a product of bad sound quality that hid the true sound and volume of that 'quiet' guitar. That's why I embedded a lyric video version above that has truer sound quality.

Nowadays I liken the song to exuberant happiness at seeing someone, a girl's happiness, and being me, that someone she's happy to see is me thanks to the key and who it makes me think of. This is largely thanks to the guitar sound.

It's probably common knowledge that most artists and bands record by multi-tracking - recording each instrument one at a time, one instrument per track(s). The drums each have their own track and are usually recorded first. Then the bass guitar. And so on. After each instrument and vocal has been recorded and re-recorded, the best take chosen, they are mixed together for dynamics, etc. and committed to a single master track from which the studio takes to the press. The result is a stereo (two channel, so two speaker) single track of all instruments and voice as the completed song.

Due to the way music is distributed, and how the market works, you can't buy a song taken apart with each of its original multi-tracks. And you can't really isolate instruments or vocals in audio programs either - you can extract certain channels in most to remove an instrument or two to hear others better, but you can't literally silence every single other instrument but for the vocals, or isolate only the piano track. The only way to do that is to look online for torrent files of ripped Rockband or Guitar Hero files which have .moggs of the songs used in the games - which themselves are digitally copied or transferred files of the original instrument multi-tracks. You can open them in Audacity, and you get the multi-tracks of a chosen song, giving you the power to take it apart and listen to each actual instrument in a song one at a time.

In searching for a remix I'd found of the song by The Cure awhile ago on YouTube, I stumbled upon a rare greatness. Someone had uploaded each individual track to YouTube - the vocal track, the drum track, the bass guitar track, the guitar, etc.

To hear how each instrument is played with literally no distraction is quite an awesome thing. For me, I get the exact synesthetic reaction to it and see everything as I hear it perfectly, and I also hear things I didn't expect or notice before thanks to the rest of the song.

This instrument track is the reason I like the song virtually at all. And I can tell that this is itself a combination of two or more guitar tracks, because it's obvious it's quite layered. In the song, it's obvious but not nearly as much, and it's relegated to the left channel (left ear/speaker).
The first chord-like picks (A & C sharp) and the second - B & E I reckon - have their own spatial direction, form, and complimentary relationship with each other as one follows the other. With that I get a mixture of happiness, eagerness, anticipation, and reason for it. Then the second two - D & B and D and F sharp (I think) are a further building up of this as well as justification for it and fulfillment of it. The D note combination has that final high to it. All of it is a green/blue and makes me think of that type of face I like, and someone I see now and then. The best parts are not necessarily the main descending riff (which is also great and has a bright blue-white colour to it) but mostly the F sharp-D-A bit that plays instead of the D-F sharp combination (the guitarist is essentially playing a descending D major note-by-note twice).
The guitar's actual sound - achieved probably by a pre-amp or effects board - is a big contributor to how I see it. It's chiming and bright but nice and low at the same time. It's what gives me the colour while the picking and style of picking give me the stylistic form, shape, and direction.

There's still an obvious reverb on the snare drum but it doesn't sound as distant as it did on the original version I would have embedded on here. The drums are probably the only instrument in a song I would not really need to isolate to figure out exactly how they're played. They're always loud enough. However, one thing I did notice is the difference of crash cymbals - the drummer hits a tinkling one and a flat-sounding one. I didn't originally pick up on that first; a lot of 80s songs used that particular flat crash sound. I also confirmed that the bass drum isn't simultaneously struck along with the toms when that common fill comes along. I didn't really think so originally. It's a bad habit I've fallen into when I occasionally play this on my drums.

I have very little to say about this track out of interest. The bass playing got some nice compliments in reviews I saw on the song's Wikipedia page. All I have to say is that it smoothly and correctly follows the song's chosen progression exactly. Otherwise, there is no deviation in it - even in the pattern of the picking. Pick-pick-pickpickpick-pick-pick-pick-pickpickpick...I appreciate songs that have bass lines that don't necessarily have to have difficult progressions, but do something different once or twice. Follow a progression, but add a little style to it, add another complimentary note, alter your playing style slightly. Don't pick a line exactly as you picked it last time. Use the same note an octave higher once or twice. If you wanted to learn how to play this song to the picking style, all you'd have to listen to is the first completion of its progression on the bass, and you're good, except for the F sharp minor - G major bit in the pseudo-chorus.

This is one track I was eager to hear, after the electric guitar track. The rare but very welcome acoustic guitar track, with some added bit of keyboard near the middle. This compliments the right channel in the song while the electric is in the left, and this guitar isn't nearly as easy to listen to over the strings-like keyboard synth. You get it full-on here. I think a 12-string was used, because it sounds dense, and I also think the guitarist didn't bother barring the B minor chord, as I do not hear the deep B note sound, just the higher strings.
Even though this guitar only follows the progression of the song, like the bass does, it's much more interesting to listen to because it simply sounds good thanks to the instrument's tone, the playing style, and the instrument itself. I have no idea how the player was able to energetically strum it so fast over three minutes, constantly. I couldn't go that fast, and not nearly that long. Plus he doesn't strum it exactly the way he did it before on each round of the chord progression, as the bassist does with his pick. Near the end he starts quietly and builds up to a crescendo. It just sounds warm and good. I love how they added this instrument to the song.

This is the track for both the synth keyboard (fake strings) and the piano part that plays over the second verse and the bridge. In the song the "strings" give off a complimentary emotion that makes me visualize the same face and a perceived personality off it (this perception applies to anything else that gives me that face in the song, so it's like a person with a face and personality has come to life via the instruments through synesthesia). On its own, however, it just makes me think of a Star-Trek scenario, space, science fiction, space-like technology, etc. Then there's the piano part, which sounds a lot more computer-based than real. Its echo (which I never noticed/heard on the actual song) and perfect sound give me that impression. Like it was programmed into a computer connected to the keyboard through MIDI and done on it. The piano sounded dreamy in the song. Alone it sounds too processed.

Finally, the vocal track. I'm kind of impressed with it. Despite no song around it, I still can't get exactly what he says once or twice thanks to his vocal tone/inflection, but otherwise he sounds quite emotionally invested in what he's singing. His voice nicely portrays that emotion well. His is a good voice for the song, and you can hear the meaningfulness behind it.

To finish, isolating each instrument's track in a multi-track-recorded song often reveals some good things, some amazing things, and now and then some boring or off-sounding things. I love the electric guitar - it does still sound endearing and happy and layered and beautiful, and works independent of the song - but the keyboard synth alone does not, and the piano was revealed to be way to computer-y to me on its own. The drums didn't reveal anything considering they're naturally loud enough anyway (the only way I'd get messed up in hearing the drums is if a tambourine mixed with the hi-hat, but you don't need to isolate the drum track for that most of the time to figure it out) and the bass turned out to be exactly the same note-for-note, pick-for-pick throughout. The vocals contained raw emotional energy, proving Robert Smith did his job, and well. Finally, the warm, happy, wonderful acoustic addition. I could easily listen to this song for only its guitars, but of course, in the end, the song as a whole is the best product, because every instrument in it is vital to the overall energy, colour, tone, image, and altogether, every instrument sounds awesome. Otherwise the song would only be in one dimension. Without all its clothes on. And of course, knowing now how each instrument sounds on its own exactly, I can notice and hear all of that in the full song now. It sounds better as a result.

If only music could be released that way. I would never tire of having an emotional bliss with that.

Red Cloud
"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

No Gear

Top Gear was a show I came to watch in the early summer of 2013. We get BBC Canada, and there was a time where it was broadcasting reruns of the show a lot, to the point even my mother was watching it. I didn't see why my mother would be interested in what looked to me, at least from a viewing distance, to be a car or machine-themed show. Often I'd see a big, wiry-haired guy sitting in a chair interviewing what turned out to be a celebrity mixed with scenes of cars being driven through the British countryside.

It was my mother who encouraged me to watch it, particularly a sequence wherein they were doing a cheap car challenge. The three - not one - three presenters took a van and made it into a makeshift convertible, taking it up to 100 miles per hour, driving through a safari park, and finally putting it through a car wash. The fact that they willingly went through an automated car wash only to have it ruin the makeshift roof, get tangled up, and catch fire intrigued me to watch more, because obviously they weren't being serious and rather going for the lighthearted, entertaining aspect. So I started taking an interest.

It led to an obsession to keep me occupied during times of boredom. I'd surf YouTube for pieces of challenge segments. The car reviews were not something I looked for particularly, but they were still entertaining in the sense that all three of them - Jeremy, Richard and James, though mostly Jeremy - would have an entertaining way of describing the drive and performance.

The true nature of the program came out at me pretty quickly. Three presenters doing "ambitious but rubbish" stunts and challenges and the odd semi-serious car review. The quirkiness of their presentation style, all free-form and casual, made the show seem like an entertainment program mixed with some interesting information. I have several of the series on DVD.

But now it's all done. Jeremy ended up doing what he apparently did, and now the BBC have exhausted their patience and chances with him.

There are two big sides to this - Jeremy's behaviour and the diehard fans who think it's not much of a big deal and isn't worth firing the star of the program over. Apparently, the show generates the most revenue for the British corporation. There isn't a way in any reality Richard Hammond and James May, the two co-presenters, would go on rowing without him. They have a shared common ground and chemistry that makes them work brilliantly together.

I'm in the middle. I don't think it's the end of the world, and no, I don't think the star of the program should be preferentially treated when he assaulted another person over a matter so silly. I love the show. It's fun to watch and can fill hours of time. But it isn't like they can go on forever anyway; two of them are in their fifties, the third nearly there. The older they got and the longer the show went, it seemed to me that the show got more and more clownish. It's one thing to be whacky once in awhile (i.e. the police car challenge) and consistently interesting (the three BMW 325i challenge) but it seemed that the more whacky features and challenges began to outnumber the reviews and other features. An entire episode of this past season was dedicated to the three of them making ambulances. It was one of the funniest episodes I saw, but at the same time, they're starting to look too juvenile for their age. The amphibious car challenge wasn't juvenile. It was a great chronicle of an accomplishment through dedication.

I read a long interview with James May awhile ago. He mentioned in it that he couldn't possibly see the three of them continuing into their fifties as they have, as he felt they couldn't take it. They were taking it. I would have liked to have seen an end to this series, not a cancellation three quarters of the way through, and then be fine with the end. Nothing lasts forever, after all.

As for Jeremy Clarkson, sometimes you just have to accept a person for who he is. Someone at his age is likely going to be set in his views and ideas, and to fight it is to get nowhere or just add to the misery. However, to treat someone like hell just because the chef went home (which is out of his control) and then punch him for that is ridiculously childish and stupid. In that sense I agree he should be at least punished or made to apologize. They should have let the show run the last of its course, and then dismiss him. Having an outspoken opinion is one thing - if everyone disagrees they simply don't have to listen to it - but making it physical is another serious thing altogether.

It was a great show - and of course there are twenty-two seasons and numerous road trip features (Botswana, Vietnam, America, India, etc.) and I think all three are great presenters and have a good sense of humour most of the time. But all things come to an end, and as I said. It shouldn't matter who you are - yelling is one thing, throwing a punch is another.

Red Cloud
"

1585 Merivale Road - A Visual History

Thanks to the pictures I've come across over the past couple of days, and what I've read out of interest, I think it would be interesting to cover a sort of history of 1585 Merivale Road.

It's a matter of personal interest for me. Everyone would know it as the "Meadowlands Mall" though it isn't a mall, just a facade of stores in a shared building. What I find interesting is the way the facade itself has changed over the years.

It's where Target is now, trying to sell off everything inside from what's on the mostly bare shelves to the shelves themselves.

My mother took me shopping there countless times over the years from when I was a toddler. That's helped in my motivation for knowledge and sharing it as well.

So here I go with the best of what I know.
Expansion in 1968; bottom segment was constructed two years earlier than that.

From what I've read in comments on Facebook and other places online, the bottom segment of building - the part closest to Meadowlands Drive - contained a Steinberg's. In  September and October of 1968, a Miracle Mart and a Pascal's Hardware store opened in the middle and northern part of the building (Sept. 25 & Oct. 5 respectively). All three tenants were of Montreal or Quebec origin.
Put up by GrocerymaniaSam on Flickr

It makes sense the poster is in French. The big rectangular facade in the poster matches the big rectangular bulkhead-looking thing on the building in my aerial photo above. Furthermore, the letters of the store name really were on top of the roof - November aerial images from the same year show the shadows of the letters falling onto the roof when looked closely through a focusing loupe. I find a lot of big stores in Nepean used big roof letter designs like that in the '60s (Shoppers City West did the same thing).

Aside from Pascal's, Miracle Mart was owned by Steinberg's which sat in the smaller southern half of the building. And from what my aerial photos show, it's obvious they remained in the building until around 1991. Around that time, the building got an addition at its Meadowlands end.

It was that year that the entire building changed, both in facade design as well as tenants. Steinberg's had gone bankrupt after difficult times catalyzed by the founder's death in 1978 (according to Wikipedia). Pascal's also became defunct. This screenshot from the GeoOttawa site from 1991 appears to show that:
1991. The big rectangle that was the facade for Miracle Mart is gone and now Zellers, and construction crews are evident at the southern end of the building as well as fences surrounding the defunct Pascal's facade for demolition.
Source: GeoOttawa

The '90s were the time of bigger players, as well as multinational names. Taking over Miracle Mart was Hudson's Bay Company's Zellers, a store that had been around since the 1940s and a national brand. Steinberg's was divided up into several separate spaces and added-on at the south end to include several American tenants, namely a Pier-1 Imports and an Olive Garden restaurant. Pascal's was also divided up, into a Staples - first signed as "Business Depot" - and a Winners.
Shared on the Lost Ottawa page on Facebook; date unknown, early 90s
"Business Depot" - shared on the Lost Ottawa page, Facebook. Early 90s.

This was how I remembered the building and stores as a kid: Sleek-looking white metal panels, crooked bulkheads and poles, giant flat or slanted store signage. Florescent lighting vertically along the walls, glass brick-box panelling. I guess the landlord decided to update the front of the building to have an ultra-modern look, except that on a sunny afternoon it might look like it could hurt your eyes. Zellers' store front was the most dramatic-looking, curved and rising high above the roof. It was the only store that had retained its massive floor space and was probably decided as the anchor of the building.

Things went smoothly along until the latter half of the last decade. In 2004, the building got a big extension along the major back wall. It was obviously for Zellers' benefit. The front of the building also got an update, changing the white panelling to, well, blue-grey and oaky green-brown. A few stores moved around - Winners went south, across Meadowlands, to the plaza on that side of the road. Red Lobster took over Olive Garden. BouClair moved to the other side of the building, and a place called HomeSense (apparently part of Winners) moved into the vacant northern end left by Winners.
Panorama I did outside the building in June 2011. The sidewalk fixtures like the bench remain the same from the 90s.

Wendys/Tim Hortons also showed up to sit in the corner of the parking lot in the late 90s. But Zellers was now floundering. They weren't bringing in enough revenue. The Hudsons Bay Company did not have much interest in a chain that was losing money, particularly its private American owner I'm sure. By the end of the last decade, Target was expressing interest in coming north of the border, and HBC took the opportunity.

What followed was a several year-long transition of closing Zellers stores, renovations, liquidations, and re-brandings. There was no doubt the floor space Zellers occupied is considered the anchor of the building; once Target started settling in, the entire building's facade was once again re-modelled.
Building under renovation again in summer 2013; own image.

Once Target took over (albeit briefly) everything changed, from the facade to the sidewalk fixtures, to even traffic ones - proprietary-looking stop signs at the entrance/exits of the parking lot, massive pedestrian crossing lines in front of the store. The red concrete balls were probably a given. Cart return stalls, which I don't recall seeing in that parking lot in the past. There was also the extremely massive extension that basically took up the entire pavement behind the building, meaning the rear entrance off Grant Carman Drive/Meadowlands had to be re-aligned for the first time since September 1987 (when Grant Carman was first paved as a road, necessitating a proper intersection).

Now the present and future is unclear. I was in that Target recently (last week). They've sold off quite a lot (not that their selves were ever that full to begin with). Almost everything was bare. Fixtures were also on sale. Despite the chain's failure, they did make the building look appealing. I like the light fixtures outside Red Lobster and the new sidewalk pavement. But now we have a gigantic empty space looming:

Screencap from the Colonnade Reality site; Target floor space in red.

In the brief history of Target I forgot to note the new addition of space at the northern side of the building; more retail space was divided up, creating space for the AppleTree clinic to cross the road from the Professional Centre to the 'mall.' You can see how huge the space has become thanks to Target. However, the one thing I do miss is the way the old signage would rise higher than the roof. Target's facade looks low and mundane, whereas Zellers used to have a tall, curvy sign with a signature-like logo that also appeared on the back corner of the building facing Meadowlands. In its place is a bullseye logo that just looks like something you should point an arrow at.

I hope something nice fits in Target's place. It would definitely be neat to see Zellers return. In its time, this plaza has gone from regional stores of Quebec origin to multinational tenants and national Canadian-wide anchors such as Zellers, to almost purely American tenants and giants like Target. It almost raises the question of where we're going in terms of our shopping interests, because there are fewer Canadian places left. Merivale Road itself used to be host to a lot of smaller Canadian chains that covered eastern Ontario/western Quebec and even all of Canada. Most, if not all, of them are gone or defunct. Where's Steinberg's? Where's Towers? Where's Woolco? I think those are all Wal-Marts now and have been since 1994.

I hope something good comes to take Target's place. But I also hope it doesn't mean they redo the building all over again. It's great-looking now. We don't need another update, surely?

Photos were borrowed from Flickr, Lost Ottawa, myself, and/or screencapped. I will remove them of any of the people/sites I've credited has any issue with them being here - otherwise thanks for letting me use them. Normally I wouldn't do a visual history of a retail building, but in this case I rarely had a tonne of information and images, so I couldn't resist.

Red Cloud
"

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Some Minor Changes

Thought I should update the look of the page a little. Just in terms of gadgets and what it says next to my picture.

I had to remove the "Absolutely Everything" gadget for two reasons. The main one was the home site it was operating from. Since I added the gadget in December 2009, I ended up being connected to a companion site through the gadget that told me statistics - who came here from where and how. I found it quite useful even though the search tool the gadget was supposed to be was less reliable than the actual search tool above it. The site went through several names - from "Ljit" to "Sovrn" to something else, and now it's changing again. Ever since January, for some reason, the stats don't work anymore even though I have a profile on there that's valid.

Of course, the second reason was the mindless searches people were conducting. I wouldn't care if they didn't show up as searched terms hugely on the gadget. Removing it was more for visitors who would be confronted with troll-like slurs vandalizing the page.

I actually found some of them funny. I looked up what "hipster" means on Wiktionary. There were 4 meanings: 1 - someone "keenly interested in the latest trends or fashion," 2 - A "member of bohemian counterculture," 3 - An "Aficionado of Jazz who finds him or herself to be hip," and 4 - underwear with "elastic waistband at hip level."

I tend to get the impression a lot of people think they know what certain commonly-used words mean, but they actually don't. I definitely didn't know the proper definition of it, and thought it was generally meant to describe someone trying to be cool, sub-zero, and/or better than everyone else. I'm not interested in the latest fashion or trends - in fact I like to be quite individualistic, my own creator of style, if I wanted to create such a thing. All my movie and music reviews on here are of songs and films that are over ten years old, typically. I don't think that's much of a trend, is it? Listening to old stuff?

I have little to no interest in Jazz; I couldn't consider myself bohemian or part of any counterculture; and obviously I'm not a pair of underwear complete with hip-level elastic band. If you prefer to see me as such, that is your choice.

To finish, this is a personal blog. It's just like any other personal blog. Some are a lot more personal than mine, and I intend on removing some old stuff I have way back here because I consider it too personal now. If anyone thinks all I care about is myself or have a big ego, they're missing the point. You write a personal blog about yourself and your interests, not about what others think. You don't write to devalue yourself unless that's your goal.

That of course was written for the normal visitors who are genuinely interested in what they see and have a brain and an ounce of human decency. Sorry about the vandalism. The other search box is much more reliable. It has always been.

Red Cloud
"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rain

Came across yet another song to listen to now and then. I didn't hear it in the car, but via one of those TV radio station things my mother surfs now and then.


Unlike the majority of my reviews of music here, this one isn't amazing. And for the first time ever, the song's music video kind of ruined it a little for me.

The redeeming feature of this song is its general guitar sound. The guitarist took something simple and made it catchy, somewhat refreshing, and generally interesting right to the end of the song.

Otherwise, the progression is very common in that exact key itself. I-VII-IV in D minor. D-C-G. So many songs use that progression. With this song however, that's all it is. The entire song plays these three notes over and over along the bass. There's no change in anything other than the guitar's notes and riffs. And the one pre-chorus bit where the bass switches to C a little earlier than usual.

Then there are the lyrics, which for the verses are the same several lines repeated twice. The chorus is 'here comes the rain/here she comes again,' etc. Singing about the rain as a metaphor for your girlfriend coming is constant throughout the song other than the twice-repeated verse.

Despite this sameness throughout the song - its music, its over-used progression in its over-used key playing over and over, the same generic lyrics - I kind of liked it regardless, largely thanks to the guitar and the general catchiness of the actual key and progression. It's hard to tire of D-C-G regardless of how often you hear it. It was an okay song.

I tried watching the music video. I don't really know why they made a video for a relatively mundane song, and they kept the video itself mundane as well. However, there were repetitive scenes that were close-ups of a tongue licking a microphone. That wasn't too awful. It was the dripping, soaking microphone itself. I have a mildly hard time not substituting the context of the scene as something sexual, which wouldn't be too bad if the microphone hadn't been soaking in a tub of saliva. Too much. Too gross. The singer himself also looked too much like the elder woman that works in dry foods at work. It was a weird mash for me. The drummer wasn't on time in the video, hitting cymbals when they weren't hit, and again, the only person who looked proficient and normal was the guitarist.

In the end, the song is still okay. The guitar saves it, as well as the nice idea of thinking of the girl you're waiting for as rain. It makes me think of how pianos in certain songs (i.e. 'Not Home Today') synesthetically seem 'watery' and 'rainy' to me, and simultaneously make me think of certain girls or a type of girl I like. Rain can be very soothing. I kind of miss it.

Music: C+
Lyrics: C
Video: D-

I don't think I've given such low grades here. The song came out in 1985 from an album called Love. Seems nice, but it goes to show that at least I don't find every possible 80s song amazing or worth a B+/A-.

Red Cloud
"

Monday, March 9, 2015

There are Harsh Realities out There

Since late last year (well, since I read Jonas Jonasson's novels, really) I've paid a lot more attention to the news and what's been happening in the world and nationally. As a result, I see a lot of reactionary stuff.

There almost always has to be a ridiculous reaction to something. I don't mean a normal one, I mean a ridiculous one where people are chanting and taking the first negative thing they hear and covering everything in it. When I read about the new sex ed. policy the provincial government rolled out, there were crazy reactions and gatherings at the government building and people using the premier's sexuality as a reason for the 'sordid content' of the new policy. Some of the quotes I read were pretty diabolical and stupid.

The more current thing people seem divided over is the whole bill C-51 anti terrorism debate. One of my recent classmates is severely opposed to it. As far as I'm concerned personally, what some unknown public servant I will never meet thinks of me because of the e-mails I exchange or what I write on here is no care or interest of mine. It's another ridiculous reaction because some people seem to think the government is going to immediately go into your computer or tap your phone and listen in or watch 24/7. And if you say the first negative thing about anything, you'll get searched and arrested in half an hour. The windows will brighten up, see, and then a S.W.A.T. team will burst through them.

I think it's a good idea, at least to a point. As long as the government is examining suspected terrorists, and I mean suspected as they actually have suspects, not just anyone, fewer plots may be successful. If it stops a mall from being blown up, or an intersection, or whatever, great. It's when they decide that perhaps they should be looking for more than just terrorists, but any activity, anywhere.

I have no problem if they discover drug dealing or child pornography and act upon charging those responsible, but if someone happens to download something from YouTube or use a torrent, yeah, it's probably wrong, but eventually they end up coming off as hyper vigilant. I wouldn't want a reality where I'm worried about every possible thing I do online. What if I upload a picture I took of someone standing on a street, but McDonalds is in the background, and because the golden arches that show up in my picture are trademarked property, the government orders me to take it down and charges me for theft of a trademark? It's not the subject of the image, it just happened to be in the background, along with the Target logo with the 2% going-out-of-business discount sign under it.

This is probably the kind of argument those who are severely opposed to it make, along with the whole civil liberty argument. I agree with them in that scenario - except that I don't think it would ever go that far. Who is paying for someone to randomly examine twenty-something million connected computers in this country 24/7? There isn't enough public servants in this country to accomplish such a thing. Not enough people and not enough money to pay them.

There are those who believe Harper would eventually get more paranoid and enforce more hyper-vigilant policies with the law, and randomly examine anyone to see if they said he took an ugly picture in a recent press article, but I highly doubt he'd ever be in power long enough to go that far. There really are harsh realities out there. If this law means the government will have the power to look into anyone's computer - though it won't be anyone's, they don't have the resources to do that - and if it means that it stops people from dying just because they went to the store, let them. You aren't losing your entire civil liberty as soon as it receives royal assent. Unless you've posted videos proclaiming in mediocre Arabic that the world is ending soon and the only way to live life to the fullest is to go join ISIS/ISIL (whatever they're called).

Red Cloud
"

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Something Brought Up From Deep Within the Subconscious

You ever find yourself in a state of absent-mindedness, or deep thought at something, or just random thinking, and some sound or bit of music fades into your mind from virtually nowhere, just an absent sound that's been there forever, but you don't know where it came from?

It's pretty amazing and probably feel-good when you finally actually hear the actual music or sound.

An hour ago, I happened to have this kind of rediscovery. It was via the TV, and I was thankfully able to get upstairs to see the title/artist of the song.


For me it was this song's introduction, particularly the ending before the first verse launches onwards. That last bit of intro would enter my mind now and then randomly throughout the years, although not recently, more when I was a younger teen. I never knew why or what it was or where it came from.

I think it's pretty neat when a song or a part of a song can integrate into someone's subconscious background thoughts to the point you recognize the sound but can't recall where it came from, but it's there. And now I've finally heard the song it came from, I'm quite impressed with the song itself.

In terms of song info, it came out in 1999. When I saw it on TV, I thought it was a late 70s-era song due to the simplicity of it and the general sound. There's a quote by the vocalist on Wikipedia explaining that he wrote it about his divorce from his first wife, to whom he apparently wasn't faithful, explaining her pleasure at moving on from him (as opposed to being sullen or 'sour' the day they met).

Before writing this, I tried figuring out some of it on the bass. I definitely know that the root note of this song is G. In thinking about the general notes used, I would guess the scale is G melodic minor. The verses begin in G; the chorus starts on B flat. But playing to the song itself was not easy right away; the introduction isn't impossible, but its transition to the first verse sounds confusing in time and root note.

Having listened to it more than several times now (I obviously quite like it) there are many elements of it that I like. Often music will synesthetically give me circumstances or situations as often as it will give me personalities or memories or visuals. For instance, the introduction makes me think of a situation where someone has been indecisive up to the last possible second, and everything has become hopeless. The music sounds tired and grave and at the end of its rope, it's 4am.

I like the progression the verses take. It sounds solid to me, as well as multi-faceted.

Apart from the bass and my synesthetic interpretation of it, I quite like the vocal melody of the verses as well. I love Weiland's high notes with 'she was a happy girl the day that she left me,' etc. That actually gives me an image of the original tall, white, concrete south side stands at Lansdowne Park, in morning sunlight, seen from the canal. I attribute the shape and colour of the very white form I get when he sings that one high note in his vocal. White in a sunny-bright way.

It's a nice easy-going song. The drums aren't heavy or overbearing, and the music is simple, bass-led with some acoustic guitar and understated electric guitar that slowly moves centre-stage towards the end. I like the after-chorus hook; that was the other bit of the song that had hung around in my mind for a long time.

Finally, I like the lyrics. Not in the way they're supposed to be interpreted though. I take a more personal view of them. "Hey, what are you looking at?" and "What would you do if I followed you?" stand out quite a bit to me. I just think about the times in which I think because a girl keeps looking at me, I think she likes me in some way, and I interpret it so until it's proven that's not the case, which has happened more often than not. Therefore - what are you looking at? I'm sure everyone finds that frustrating.

I take the chorus lyric as a sort of lightly jocular romantic phrase in a circumstance involving a simple crush on someone, even though it's far from it. Like seeing someone you like and ensuring you're close because you like them, maximizing the time you see each other.

My view of the lyrics is quite in contrast to how they're actually written and intended, but hey, everyone has their own personal feeling and idea with something they like.

The last thing I'll mention is the music video. The lighting is pretty cool; the animal costumes are quite unusual and ominous. When I saw that, I could have sworn I may have seen some random scene of it before, long ago, because those bunny-like characters didn't look absolutely unfamiliar.

Music: A-
Lyrics: B+

Very pleased to hear the actual origin of what's been buried in my subconscious for so long.
Red Cloud
"

Friday, February 20, 2015

Two (not and a half) Smashed Pianos

Despite not having watched any of it for several years now, I watched the series finale of Two and a Half Men. It was kind of interesting.

For a finale, it mostly fulfilled the usual characteristics of one: Reappearance of old recurring characters/former main characters (except for the obvious big one) and, although it was quite overly rampant in this finale, intertextual jokes and pokes at the show's own writing, plus word-play by the characters referring to the show's run, plot, humour, and personalities. Even Charlie Sheen, his personal life, and recent sitcom Anger Management was referenced/joked about.

There was a time in the past where I extremely enjoyed this show. I even have the DVD box sets of seasons 1 up to 8 (I believe). I watched them all the time. Its original dynamic and origin was pretty good - take a lifestyle like Charlie Sheen's, create a sitcom around it - and then add in an uptight younger brother who's recently divorced, plus his ten-year-old son. That would be the clash of the lifestyles. There's nothing unbelievable about it.

But it didn't age well. Jake, for comedic purposes, got progressively more dim-witted until he essentially became an unsympathetic simpleton. I know a lot of people no doubt get a big laugh out of an unsophisticated character whose misunderstood wordplay in simple conversations only leads him to confusion and annoyed ignorance. At first, Charlie appeared to be an accepting, largely tolerable character who could be fun to watch, but as time went on, he only became more obnoxious, disinterested, and devoid of hardly any feeling. Originally his verbal matches with Alan and Evelyn were funny to watch; they ended up just being constantly, overly mean-spirited. Jokes and certain, tolerable personalities do eventually get old and intolerant.

Then there's Alan, a character I originally felt for and saw as the straightest of the straight men on the show. His character seemed like a normal, conscientious, relatively smart father personality who went through an unfortunate dilemma in life with his divorce. But as the seasons rolled by, any normal adult dignity he had wore away pretty quickly. He wasn't going anywhere. Not in terms of moving out or, apparently, in his career. Unfortunately, the show's dynamic could only work as long as he continued to have bad luck, money issues (believable or not) and only as long as his independence and sense of worth was continuously castrated, mauled, and hopelessly beaten out. Any sympathy I had for him no longer exists - he has no more shame or self-worth. He matured into a cartoon of a middle-aged man, the interminable butt of constant bad money/poor jokes that peppered the dialogue of a typical later series episode so much I wonder if the audience is supposed to spend every half-hour episode jeering maniacally at him. Are we supposed to feel superior and callous towards someone because they live in poverty? I say this because of an episode I did see from the ninth season involving a storm (Ep. 16), where Alan's and Walden's girlfriends argued with each other while stuck in the powerless house. Most of what I remember from those scenes are condescending remarks largely regarding Alan due entirely to his lack of money.

I'm impressed that a series such as this one was able to last for so long, especially after the star of it ended up fired after a series of televised and online rants and words and comments. I find most shows that lose its main star or character tend to last only 1 to 2 seasons at the most, as the main reason people watched it is nullified. The main reason I'm impressed though is its portrayal of relationships, women, and men's attitudes. I've read that it's been described as 'misogynistic.' I don't think that's too far off.

In the show's universe, relationships never pan out. Virtually every marriage mentioned or seen on the show ends in divorce - save for Judith's and Herb's. All three main characters - Alan, Charlie, and later Walden - seem to never pass up an opportunity for sex, regardless of where, when, and if it would mean cheating or ruining their situation or someone else's. I can understand Charlie's attitude and appetite for it (it's obvious right from the very first episode, part of his character) but by the latter half of the series every main character (including Jake in the end) has this sex-above-everything-else requirement. Women, by contrast, are portrayed as cruelly greedy, manipulative, entitled, controlling, and powerful in a seedy, mean-spirited kind of way. Not to mention superior and condescending.

In short, men are portrayed as sex-crazed, women superior and greedy objects, and relationships dead-end ways to be manipulated by them into losing your dignity, self-worth, and financial stability. Every character on that show came off as selfish, unsympathetic, sometimes bumbling, often callous. I didn't find a reason to like any of them, including Alan, to whom the writers never stopped short of being cruel to. If I were him I would have left that unforgiving, seedy environment long ago - no one would really care to miss him, it seems. The practice of chiropraxy isn't dead-end - where I live, chiropractors litter the area, along with dentists. I would have ended the series with him finally moving out, moving on, and creating a new life for himself elsewhere - particularly far away from where the show is set.

As for the finale, it seemed pretty promising up until near the end. I was hoping Charlie Sheen really would show up, having not died. Rose is a pretty insane character. The Looney-Tunes inspired backstory to how she imprisoned him was a neat element to the episode considering the character's actual state of mental stability. But instead an actor that resembled the back of his head and body size very closely had to show up at the last second - only to have a grand piano crush him at the front door.

I have never seen an ending to a series on TV where the departed main character shows up in the final scene only to be comically crushed by the piano he played so often in the early seasons - and then the creator and executive producer is revealed right afterwards, only for him to be similarly crushed. I guess it's an absurd ending to a comedy focusing on sex and hapless characters. I doubt any other series finale concludes with its own creator in a director's chair enveloped into the episode, sound stages revealed and all. Or falling baby grand pianos.

It is what it is. I wouldn't have expected it to end this way, which makes it interesting, so I think I'll just conclude on this note:

'Men....'

Red Cloud
"

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hallmark of Days, The

When I think about days like Valentines Day, I try to find a way to justify it. Any holiday, or special day, has some sort of justification to it. Christmas had religious beginnings, and Easter has a similar origin/basis. Mothers and Fathers Days to me would equate almost to Thanksgiving, in that you are saying thanks to someone who brought you up, raised you, and nurtured you, made you who you are today. As for Thanksgiving, that has historic justification.

Out of all the special days of the year, I can't find any justification for this one. There is no real point to Valentines Day just like there is no real point to Halloween or Family Day, which to my non-Canadian readers is a holiday (at least in Ontario) where a couple of Mondays during the month of February are considered holidays (basically stores are closed and no one has to go to work).

Before you call me negative, let me ask this question: Did something special happen today historically? Is it a celebration of someone notable? Is it patriotic? Are we celebrating in the name of our country like we would for Canada Day or the American Independence Day on July 4th? Is it someone's birthday? Ironically, today actually is my paternal aunt's birthday. Let me ask this even more dumb question: Are we only specifically allowed to celebrate relationships and romance on this day, and this day only?

I wouldn't normally say much about today but there's a certain stigma it creates that I find childish and bothersome. In what I've taken from media and TV and other places, I've found that that stigma created is "Single = Bad/Sad."

There is a slight superiority I find that those in a relationship tend to create on a day like this, especially when they make a ridiculous show of romance; being alone is the most horrible thing to be on Valentines Day. On TV, characters who don't have a girlfriend/boyfriend are miserable and feel like they have no reason to exist because it's this occasion and they're alone, and that removes the point to anything. Some people take Valentines Day ridiculously seriously, and if you're alone, that's, no, just smother yourself. Geez.

There is a reason for today to exist: It's commercial profit. Hallmark and all the other card makers make it a big deal; it's another day on which to exploit an occasion that would require a card. In any film set on the day, the main character is desperate to - and gets - a girl. That's the point to the day when all it is is a profit-making scheme.

Call me negative. Call me pessimistic and single. I'll just call you childish and ignorant. My basic message here is to those who take a stupid view on such a mindlessly normal day: Being on your own does not mean your life has no point or meaning. Having a partner is not the end product of life; you weren't put on this earth to have a partner or you'll rot away. Valentines Day is not I'm-single-so-my-life-is-lonely-and-depressing. Nor is it I'm-in-a-relationship-so-I'm-better-than-you-and-I'm-going-to-shove-it-in-your-face. It's a day for Hallmark cards to sell. If I were in a relationship, I wouldn't wait for a certain day to do something romantic. I'd do it every day of the year. She wouldn't get any more or less from me just because it's February 14th.

Those who are single are not inferior or any less to those who are in a relationship, no matter how much media and TV try to force that down everyones' throats. Being alone should be just as good as being with someone. It's no doubt less complicated. And again, do we need a day to be especially romantic? Use your own free will and be romantic whenever you want.

As for Halloween, I said it was meaningless because really, it's fun for children, and that's all. It's more of a social event than a special day, dressing up and going from house to house with your friends collecting candy. Family Days are essentially a normal weekend expanded by 24 hours, which the government thinks we need a couple of times a year for some reason. No different from any other long weekend.

Happy Valentines Day. To Everyone, not just those in a relationship, who have nothing more than those who aren't. If I had some money, I'd buy a Hallmark card for the occasion. That's the point, after all, isn't it?

Red Cloud
"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Music of 'In The Middle of the Night,' The

Today, I found myself searching YouTube for the Madness song 'In the Middle of the Night.' I don't recall why, I had a reason, I just can't remember it at this second. It might have been the way the music of the song works.

While I was thinking about it, I hit a few random chords I'm partial to on my keyboard, and hit an A minor. When I played that, I got an impulse to hit an E minor, and when I did that, my ears told me this kind of sounded like the song itself.

I thought back to the bass line, which I haven't forgotten. I learned it by ear years ago yet didn't know the notes. Knowing as I played that I'd end the first part on E, I realized I'd started on a high A and made my way down to E.

Recalling the other part of the bass line, the complimentary part of the first, I ended up working out, from memory, how the song works.

I then played the song and tested my ear's theories out. What I heard from my headphones and what I heard my fingers play on the piano matched. And after putting the acoustic guitar together as well, I figured I'd lay it out here.

Of the song, the first instrument I learned was its drum rhythm. Then the bass guitar, and finally the last two tonight. I know the lyrics, but what I can't do is sing them. Or play the sax. Or know for certain that the organ notes are the same as the chords on the piano, just their root notes.

But let me try and write out what I do think I know.

The snare drum is the main beat the song plays to; all the instruments cue off of the rhythm of the snare drum, at least in the verses. The bass drum takes over in the chorus. The bass drum beat is once every two snare hits, sometimes coupled as two eighth notes. During the chorus, the snare keeps its rhythm but the bass drum takes centre stage as the main beat everything starts on. Bass-snare-bass-snare-bass-snare-bass-bass-snare. The rhythm stays the same for the entire song, with minor snare fills at the start of each hypothetical measure.

Musically, I've identified the song's verses as a simple 1-5 progression in A harmonic minor. The chorus is in two different keys, G major and C major. With that knowledge, the piano and guitar both play A minor twice, then E minor twice, before then playing B minor and F sharp minor twice. That's for all the verses. The style is on-beat staccato, each time the snare plays. Am-Am-Em-Em, Am-Am-Em-Em, Bm-Bm-F#m-F#m and so on.

The chorus is very simple. G major, A minor, B minor, and back to A minor. Then there's the C part, C major, D major, E minor, and back to D. Chris Foreman plays this exact progression during the intro to the song, except on guitar I'm pretty sure he plays a B major instead of minor.

As for the bass guitar, it has an interesting style played on it. Mark Bedford fingers those strings very cleanly and quickly. Basically, he winds his way down from the root to the dominant (A to E) via G. Then he continues down to B from the same place, off of E, though not every time, and there are alterations to how he gets from A to E, and whether he goes to B. He does the same from B to F sharp, via A, and again, he may go all the way to C sharp, and may not. He may go BB-F#-A instead. For the chorus he simply does a G-A-B, or C-D-E. And back to A or D in each case.

The thing with 'In The Middle of the Night' is it's the kind of song where everyone's playing the same notes, or bouncing around them like Mark Bedford on bass. That makes it a simple song with a simple progression (two 1-5s joined together with a 1-2 for the verses, and a 1-2-3-2 progression for both keys in the chorus). The drums are a simple rhythm as well, a constant snare-led beat with sporadic bass notes and a hi-hat that is on-time and constant with the snare. Plus a few minor fills and crashes at the beginning/end of the chorus.

Before finishing, I must note that all of what I've written here is strictly based on my ear/synesthesia, and guessing from those. I could be very wrong, and have been before, usually by one step (semitone). If anyone finds this helpful or interesting, please remember to consider that. No one is perfect, after all. I also welcome corrections if I've made an error (given they're genuine and obvious).

I should also finish by saying that Mike Barson plays a tune on the piano right-handed that sounds a bit brighter and different from the left hand that's probably playing the G-A-B chords. I haven't totally figured that out yet.

Otherwise, it's an interesting song that I sort of stumbled upon figuring out.

Red Cloud
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

'If You Were Here' & That Progression

Yesterday evening I bought a neat book on 80s New Wave artists. It was a simple "oral history" as it defined itself, with the frontmen or songwriters of the bands featured going into the backgrounds of their most well-known songs. For instance, A Flock of Seagulls frontman Mike Score talked about the band as well as the background to 'I Ran.' Tears for Fears - Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal - talked about 'Mad World' and their influences in their early songwriting and experiences as a group. Quite interestingly, at the end of their section, Smith noted that there was always one 'novelty' kind of band out of every 'good' 80s band, and referenced A Flock of Seagulls, and at the bottom of the page was Mike Score's response to Curt Smith's words.

There was a section on the Thompson Twins - a band of which I reviewed their song 'Hold Me Now' back in 2011 - and one of the authors of the book, in her intro to the section on the band, mentioned a song called 'If You Were Here' and how it played at the end of Sixteen Candles, etc. Having re-read my old review of 'Hold Me Now,' that song very quickly became old for me. And it's not in D major at all - the main notes of D-B-C-A put it in a D melodic minor scale to accommodate both the B and the C (natural minor uses a B, harmonic & major use a C). I should have written a proper review of the song after that spur-of-the-moment one.

Back to the song in the title of this post, when it was mentioned as the closing music to that John Hughes movie, I immediately took note of that because I liked the music at the end of the movie but never knew or tried looking it up. I did that late last night.

This one is in C minor. C-G-A♯-F. Can you tell what popular progression that is?

I-V-VII-IV (1-5-7-4)

I want to talk briefly about this progression, because like the I-III-VII-IV (1-3-7-4) minor progression I talked about a couple of weeks ago, this one is used and reused like crazy in popular music, more so than the one used in F♯ minor in 'Mad World' and all the others. Thankfully they're not all in the same key (most of them). I've talked about this many times before briefly in other reviews of songs using this progression. I never actually noted the whole scope:

'Ah! Leah!' (Donnie Iris) - C♯ minor (chorus)
'Rio' (Duran Duran) - E minor (chorus, the demo the song is based off of, 'Stevie's Radio Station,' is essentially that exact progression played note for note).
'Hotel California' (The Eagles) - B minor (verses)
'Where's the Love?' (Hanson) - G minor (verses)
'Memories' (Madness) - D minor (chorus)
'Driving in my Car' (Madness) - D minor (verses)
'We Are All Made of Stars' (Moby) - D minor (chorus)
'I'm Sorry' (The Payola$) - E minor (chorus)
'When Can I See You Again' (Toronto) - A minor (chorus, obvious in the keyboard).
'Something or Nothing' (Uriah Heep) - D minor
'Is She Really Going Out With Him?' (Joe Jackson) - A♯ minor
'Steady As She Goes' (The Raconteurs) - B minor

Songs that come close but are actually off by a semitone on the 2nd and 4th notes include 'So Lonely' and 'Message in a Bottle' (just the 4th note) (both in D minor) by The Police and 'Land Down Under' by Men at Work (B minor) (chorus). I guess 'Hold Me Now' could also be considered similar-sounding as well.

D minor is the most popular key out of all of those songs, and consider these are only songs I know. There are probably many others out there. E & B minor comes second in that list in frequency. The rest all show up once - in that limited list.

It's obviously an appealing structure of notes, having them in that order. Each song puts the progression into its own style and genre, somewhat refreshing it for the ears and making the song sound catchy and fun and often bright. And the key it's in makes a big difference as well. Having that progression in E minor gives you a very happy, resounding, bright progression, depending on how you play it (in 'Rio,' it sounds that way, whereas in 'I'm Sorry' it sounds more playful and chirpy thanks to the staccato guitar rhythm). In D minor, its popular key, it sounds cheerful and bright and catchy. A lot of the little music interludes in the TV series Community that begin a scene in the early season episodes have a guitar playing this progression in this key.

Finally we come to 'If You Were Here' which uses this progression in C minor. C as a chord on its own sounds down-to-earth and grounded to me. That as well as positive. In this progression? Well, at this point, the best musicians can do with it is play it out on keys it hasn't been used in (if there are any unused ones left) and reinvent its style and sound as much as possible to make it seem refreshing and once again appealing. Because I haven't heard 1-5-7-4 in C before, the Thompson Twins did manage, and quite well.

To figure out how this works, you have to analyze the notes and their relation to each other. This progression is a fusion of two already musically appealing relationships. From a 1 to a 5 is already appealing to the ears. The fifth note in a chord and progression is the dominant, the final note of a triadic chord - 1-3-5. C major is C-E-G. Theoretically, you can play a chord without the middle note and still recognize the chord. So the dominant and tonic are the most important. And going from a tonic to a dominant is particularly attractive when you're going lower on a keyboard or a fretboard. There are multitudes of songs - probably more so than ones in this progression - that are simply 1-5 progressions. This progression is made up of two sets of 1-5s - the 1-5 and the 7-4. On their own, they're equally five steps away from each other.

The second happy relationship between notes here is the relationship between the 1 & the 7. The amount of music simply in that order - 1-7 - could be tied with the amount of music using a 1-5 progression. It's simply a tonic and the subtonic; the first note and the one a full tone lower. Like playing D and then C. It's a good descending distance and works. It makes me think of going from an older sibling to a younger one. The first is taller and more of a leader, the other is shorter and grounded and a little more introverted.


Put those two together, 1-5 and 1-7, have the first and third note be the 1 of a 1-5 progression, and put the first and third notes in a relationship where the third is a subtonic from the tonic, and it's a fusion of great appeal. Then each musician gives the resultant progression a style rooted in a particular genre, and it's relatively refreshed over and over each time, especially in each different key.


For the case of 'If You Were Here,' with the synths and style the progression is played, in that key, it personally gives me a feeling, a sound, and expression of high, excited, great expectation. It also makes me think of childhood, of feeling this way as a young child. Except, with the subject matter and influence of the film it provided for, it's a childlike wonder, excitement, and expectation for seeing someone you love. Like greeting her at the airport, and as you wait in the arrivals area, you've got this childlike happiness, this glee of happy expectation, bubbling under the surface of your calm demeanour. It's the synth sound playing that progression that gives me this image and feeling.


I could easily map it out note by note. A 1-5 progression usually gives me depth and emotional integrity, absolute clarity and honesty, true feelings. Then it descends one tone down to the subtonic, to the 7, and it's like looking out at your circumstances with a happy, down-to-earth feeling, feeling reassured and good about everything. Then the final 4, a fifth away from the 7, the absolution of everything.

It works quite well in C minor. I'm pleased with how the Thompson Twins handled it. I also like Tom Bailey's voice in the song. It's green to me and I just like how it sounds, how he delivers. The only thing I don't like is the brass-sounding synth thing at the end of the progression. It sounds like it's supposed to sound romantic to me, but I think it overplays it too much. Otherwise, the song gives me a nice great expectation for seeing a certain kind of face, and it's a feeling so genuine it makes me feel at home and like a kid again. I hope I meet someone in the future who makes me feel that way, because that's what I envision through the music.

I'm glad I never came upon this properly while I was in that long-distance relationship. I would have overly attributed the music to her and the situation, which would have sullied it afterwards. A childhood peer of mine, someone I've known since junior kindergarten, moved out to Calgary last year to be with his girlfriend to solve his long-distance relationship with her. I applaud his success.

I've been writing this sporadically all day, so I'm not going to comment on the lyrics. I will, however, say that the Thompson Twins did a great job of using an over-used musical progression and re-inventing it in a nice key which gave me great synesthetic imagery and feeling. Good job.

Song: A
Lyrics (based on the sound of Bailey's voice): A-

Red Cloud
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